Verb-focused Praise Optimizes Children’s Performance!


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Praise action over natural gifts to optimize performance!  By all means, continue to compliment your child’s talents and intellect to help them form a strong foundation, but in addition, over-emphasize praise of their efforts and actions. They’ll be far more likely to risk challenging themselves to excel at new and different successes.

This is how you can help them optimize their performance! You will see the very best of their potential, without them feeling overly worried about damaging an image. Vigilantly guarding an image, can lead children to trap themselves inside small boxes of “what we’re good/not good at”, unwilling to risk disappointing you (hence, themselves) by “failing” at new things.

What we are really talking about here is optimizing performance and unlocking their best performance, across a broad spectrum. This is the alternative to your child avoiding challenges and hence, missing opportunities for growth and achievement. This kind of aversion is an unfortunate, but avoidable, self-stunting of their performance in order to maintain a sterling personal identity. Although this early identity forming feels permanent to our kiddos, we need to reassure them that it’s not; it’s actually more flexible than intrinsic personality traits, natural talents, or giftedness.

This is about helping our kiddos to cultivate a “growth mindset”; learning about it, and then adopting it. And let’s not forget “grit”; determined perseverance, despite challenge or delay, until success is reached! In fact, Stanford researchers found that…


For Parents and Educators

Like Glennan Doyle famously titled her podcast, “We can do hard things”. Children are most likely to believe this, if you emphasize their Process over Product / Journey over Destination. It is striking what research shows about how much more vital Effort-based Praise versus Intellect/Talent-based Praise is to increased or optimized performance. Ironically, this is especially true when the child is performing well!

Switch to Praising with Verbs!

Make Praise action-oriented and effort-focused – use verbs! (i.e. *Studying*/Not = High/Low Score). Either way allows room to keep striving…either for improvement or leveling up in excellence.

Teach a Growth Mindset

Children can also become more resilient, converting frustration into action, by connecting motivation to thinking processes. Focusing on points of effort, puts the emphasis on adopting an optimistic perspective that we can always being find new ways to navigate challenges and problem-solve (or solution-seek, if you will!). This keeps a child’s identity of capability flexible instead of brittle, in ideally, the positive direction, especially in the face of hardship. This is teaching a “growth mindset”.

Promote Asking for Help

Especially on the heels of a challenge or what feels like disappointing results, it’s important to encourage your child to ask for help in moving forward, as well as ask for constructive feedback to improve future performance.

BONUS TIP: Affirm and reinforce positive performance by encouraging you child to ask for the VERBS regarding what they did RIGHT. Enrichment kicks in knowing what VERBS they did that optimized their performance, pushing it to the next level!

There is “Good Stress”

This is otherwise known as the “stress-is-enhancing mindset”. Here is a great opportunity to reassure your kids, by educating them that the body has responses to stress, such as elevated heart rate, which can serve as helpful if they are looked at from that perspective. It is this difference in perspective – the shift from negative to positive – that impacts our physiological stress response, including how much stress hormone we release and for how long. Explaining this helps kiddos not only understand that there is “good stress” but also, that reframing the stress response is a helpful way to navigate stress, which is a natural part of this journey we call Life.

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As famed Stanford Neurobiologist Andrew Huberman found and succinctly summarized, “If people are taught about the performance enhancing aspects of stress, then those people will experience performance enhancement when they are confronted with stress.”


“Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman on the right way to praise your kids to set them up for success” by Alexa Mikhail. August 9, 2023.

Dweck, Carol. (1998). Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential.

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